One of the key factors that promote the development of Digital Economy is establishing Information Technology Centres, where Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship are nurtured by building native ideas, evolving talent and graduate crazy IT professionals. It is used in many countries as a tool to promote the development of both upstream and downstream IT components for economic development across all sectors.

National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which has the mandate to develop, regulate and advise Federal Government on Information Technology related matters in the country through regulatory standards, guidelines and policies, has been building such structures and providing fully equipped centres that train and empower citizens with various IT skills.

The Agency, under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy supports initiatives in developing programmes that promotes e-government, cyber-security, digital skills, gender barrier, enhance regulation and market environment to increase access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and promote ICT-Centred innovation and entrepreneurship.

NITDA has established over 1500 IT Centres across the country where thousands of Nigerians are gaining basic computer skills to setup their own businesses across the country.

The IT sector received major boost last Tuesday, 15 February, 2022 in Katsina State, as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), commissioned an Innovation Centre that will provide enabling environment for innovators in the state, which in line with Federal Government agenda of economy diversification from oil resources revenue generation to digital revenue generation.

The Centre named Muhammadu Buhari Innovation Hub will create the required environment for Nigeria’s innovators; encourage innovation and indigenization of technologies. Indigenization of technologies will help address the continuous reliance on foreign products and services which has negative impact on the country’s economy. The Centre will also serve as a bridge between the Government, industry, and the academia in providing research environment for creativity, idea integration and collaborative environment, development of ICT policies, processes and strategies.

It is equipped with facilities that can be used to develop inquisitive perspective, create opportunities for entrepreneurs to become potential employers of labour, rather than just employees.

Furthermore, it will focus on promotion and development in ICT which include advanced and applied research; development in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Quantum Computing and also Smart Energy Solutions to drive ICT. In addition, the Centre will allow startups to accelerate and experience innovations at scale, through customized visits, design thinking sessions and co-innovation workshops thereby creating a highly collaborative & immersive environment.

Speaking during the commissioning of the centre on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), Minister of Communications and Digital Economy stated that the centre will empower the youths with the requisite digital skills, drive innovation and challenge creativity as part of the Digital Economy of the Federal Government.

Professor Pantami said that there is a paradigm shift globally with emphasis on proven skills over certificates, and there is also the need to diversify away from natural resources like oil and gas and Nigeria is no exception in the quest for digital capacities in the fourth industrial revolution.

He said, “We feel the necessity to establish innovation centres in at least every geopolitical zone in the country, identify existing talents, support and provide the enabling environment and mentorship so that in the next few decades, Nigeria can boast of its own Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos”.

Prof. Pantami further noted that the leading economies in the world today are innovation – driven and with the commitment of the present administration to digitalise the Nigerian economy, the inherent potential Nigeria is abundantly blessed with, it is achievable.

“This is the only way to lift any nation out of poverty and that is why we conceptualised this initiative, the IT innovation hub, to help lift Nigerians out of poverty and support the Katsina State government in its talent hunt initiative.

Prof Pantami added that, “From the Middle East, Asia and the USA, they are where they are today because of innovation and even here in Nigeria and Africa, we have seen how innovation has turned our nation within a span of 15 years especially communications technology which has become one of largest economic sectors in Africa, creating millions of jobs.

The minister revealed that Katsina state is blessed with a lot of talented youths who need to be encouraged to realize their potentials, especially in the Information Technology sector.

According to him, Nigeria needs to create a conducive environment and mentorship that would encourage talented youths in the IT sector, adding that this informed the Federal Government to build the IT centre in Katsina state.

Speaking at the event, the Katsina state Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, thanked the Federal Government for the initiative, and assured the Ministry that the state would continue to encourage youths in the state to embrace Information Technology.

The governor said the newly commissioned IT hub would be put into good use under the state Institute of Science and Technology.

“We are very pleased with this initiative, it open doors of opportunities to Katsina state youths to become job employers, rather than job seekers, and we would continue to encourage youths in the state to embrace Information Technology,” he said.

While making his remark at the commissioning, the Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, CCIE commended the Minister for his foresight in bringing ideas and developmental policies that uplifted the ICT sector to the highest rank in Nigeria.

The DG noted that Information and Communications Technology, in the least two decades, became largest economy in Africa, creating million of jobs in the continent more than any other sector.

He said, “We conceptualized this initiative, IT Innovation Hub, to consolidate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, and also support Governor Aminu Masari in his talent hunt to bring these young talented people to this Centre to curate, nurture and incubate their ideas – turn the ideas into products and services”.